The history of the vacuum cleaner.
The history of the vacuum cleaner began before electricity was invented. Housewives and maids had to use brooms or rug beaters to battle the dirt that was in the home. In the 1800s the pneumatic vacuum cleaner became available which used a system of bellows and valves to draw in air and the dirt with it. A person would have to pump the bellows for the system to work. Because they moved little air they were not very effective. Later came versions that, when pushed, would actuate the bellows and do the same thing. These were commodities for the wealthy upper class.
With the invention of the light bulb by Thomas Edison the world found a new form of power that could be put to use to not only replace kerosene lamps as a form of light but also to power items to make life easier. The electric powered vacuum cleaner was originally supplied with a light bulb fixture instead of today’s two prong plug. Since electricity and light bulbs were a new invention this was the only form of receptacle known at the time. Owners would unscrew their Edison bulb and screw in their electric powered vacuum cleaner. First vacuums were suction only meaning they did not have a revolving brush roll. The Hoover Electric Suction Sweeper Company was the first company to introduce and patent a rotating brush to “beat” the carpet to remove imbedded dirt. The famous “It beats as it sweeps as it cleans” was Hoover’s claim to fame. The company was established in New Berlin, Ohio which is today North Canton, Ohio. Most of the first vacuums were very expensive and took extensive time to produce. The cost of an electric powered vacuum cleaner in the early 1900’s would cost as much as ninety dollars. Ford’s Model T was five hundred dollars meaning the vacuum was a fifth the cost of an automobile. The Hoover Company began adapting the assembly line idea to their production of vacuums by the late teens. The Hoover model 700 was the first vacuum to be mass produced making it more affordable to the masses.
Nearing the end of the thirties the housewife of America was to see a new type of cleaner that was lighter, more powerful, and could feature a removable paper dust bag. The forties brought a more affordable vacuum that could feature a removable paper dust bag. Previously the dirt bag had to be dumped and shaken out a daunting task for any housewife. The removable paper dust bag could be dumped separately from the outer bag and made it much easier to maintain the vacuum. The vacuum was as sleekly styled as the Zephyr train and featured a plastic motor cover.
At the end of WWII America went back to work and the hardship days subsided to days of diners, stylish cars, television and happy times. The American consumer wanted a vacuum cleaner as stylish and colorful as their new car. For the first time vacuums started to be made in colors and were styled by famous designers like Henry Dryfus. The cleaner of its day was as revolutionary as the automobile industry. This styling phase was just at its beginning for when the fifties came to a close America would soon have as many color choices as their automobiles.
Hoover introduced the Convertible cleaner in the sixties with as many color combinations as one could imagine. The vacuum was easily converted from floor to tools with the rear loading tool adapter. These cleaners were low, sleek, and features a disposable paper bag. The days of emptying out the dirt bag was over, just pull out the bag from the lower tube and toss it away. The most inventive attribute to the time was the introduction of the Hoover Dial-a-Matic. This was the first vacuum to feature a clean air system. Previously the dirt would be drawn into a fan and then would be blown into the collection bag. This form of cleaner drew the dirt through a nozzle hose into the bag while the motor would suck the air out of the bag. This design allowed for more effective tool cleaning performance. The dial on the back could be turned to select between tools and floor cleaning. The disposable dirt bag and motor was part of the handle and body assembly giving it a sleek look that seem to hide all the features that were common in previous cleaners. Vacuums continued to be made lighter, cheaper and more user friendly as time went on. John’s Sweeper Service strives to give a visual informational history on the vacuum cleaner in its displays and vintage advertisements at its store in Downtown Dover, Ohio. Stop in today or schedule a group tour of this intriguing part of American history.